Where is all the plant knowledge now?

I’m beginning to feel that there is a growing lack of knowledge when it comes to plants and I’m pondering the reasons why?

I’ll give you a few examples. I was watching coverage of this year’s BBC Gardener’s World exhibition and Monty Don featured a new astrantia on a stand that required a name. Having asked around the BBC crew they came up with ‘Celeste’. Lovely name, only thing was the astrantia looked like a standard Astrantia major, white and smallish. Now maybe the editors did not include the salient points about this new astrantia (flowers longer etc), but from where I was sitting it looked very ordinary.

This is my second example. I am vice-chair of the modesty sized Peony Society, a group of wonderfully interesting people who share a passion for peonies. The latest newsletter congratulates Billy Carruthers of Binny Plants for his silver gilt medal at Chelsea (well done Billy and David Root of Kelways for that matter). My only concern was this quote from Billy – ‘my mission in life is to get people to understand and grow more peonies’. What have I been doing for the past 30 years and for that matter what has Kelways been doing for over 100 years?

Of course put these two examples into context and they may well  be easily  explained, but look at any number of gardening magazines or newspaper columns on gardening there is wrong information everywhere.

We are in an age of diversity, where there is no one fashion in clothing, in music or even politics. This lack of polarisation can of course be seen as a good thing but it has arisen because no-one talks anymore, there is no pooling of thoughts and knowledge. Perhaps I am being too cynical (or becoming a grumpy old woman), but when I first started growing plants 3 decades ago I was in awe of those who had been in the business for decades. The biggest name in perennials was Blooms of Bressingham and Graham Thomas was THE most knowledgeable plantsman at the time. I collected, and still have, all Blooms catalogues and Grahams books.

This is how I learnt about plants and how I started to write about them. It was a result of these two great names. Their knowledge was the result of many more great nurserymen and gardeners before them.

These days few gardening books about plants are published. Publishers say they cannot sell them and I suppose it’s because of the internet as well as the recession. But I also wonder if anyone really takes the time to learn and truly research any more?

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